Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published August 12th 2021
Light up your Life Looking at Lighthouses
Lighthouses not only hold the mystique of the past but even in modern times, they remain vital navigational tools. Once the isolated homes of lonely lightkeepers, they are now mostly automated and some are solar-powered. Many of Australia's lighthouses were constructed in the 1800s - all are situated in areas of natural beauty. At least nine of them offer public tours, and accommodation in the old cottages can be booked at five of the light stations. The others can be viewed from outside where you can also take in panoramic ocean views. One of them is even reputed to be haunted. So what are you waiting for, visit a lighthouse in or near greater Melbourne or book a holiday in one of Victoria's picturesque locations? In the following article, where tours or stayovers are available, this is highlighted in the headings.
Griffiths Island Lighthouse - Image by Ed Dunens, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons (1)
1. Williamstown Lighthouse - the Timeball Tower is in Port Gellibrand Heritage Park on Battery Road in Williamstown. It started its life as a lighthouse in 1840 and it is thought it may have been Victoria's first navigational aid. It was converted to a time ball tower around 1860 and operated as such until 1926, becoming a lighthouse again in 1934. The time ball was dropped from the tower at 1pm daily to allow ships' captains to set their clocks. The bluestone lighthouse is 27 metres high and a time ball is still dropped at 1pm each day, although these days it is computer controlled. The tower itself is not open to the public but can be viewed from the outside at any time. For a location map, details of facilities and other things to do at Port Gellibrand Heritage Park, visit the park's page on the Hobsons Bay City Council website.
Williamstown Timeball Tower - Image by Mattinbgn, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
2. The Port Melbourne Leading Lights were built in 1924 to mark the centre of the Port Melbourne Channel from Port Phillip Bay. These heritage listed lighthouses are not open to the public but can be viewed from the outside. The back lighthouse, a 26-metre-high concrete structure is on land in the Garden City Reserve, on the corner of Beacon Vista and Beacon Roads, overlooking the Beacon Cove residential estate. A half a kilometre south and in view from the back lighthouse is the front lighthouse, a 16-metre-high wooden framed structure sits offshore between Princes Pier and Station Pier. They can also be accessed along the shorefront walkway from Port Melbourne. For more details regarding its history and a location map, visit their page on the Lighthouse Australia website.
Port Melbourne Front Light - Image by Leonie Bourke, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
3. TOUR - Cape Schank Lighthouse and Museum is a limestone tower that was built in 1859 and is unusual as its stairway is made of stone rather than wrought iron. The current lantern was originally installed in 1915 and has been upgraded three times since. The old lightkeeper's quarters have been converted to a museum so it's worth keeping an eye out for when the tours are running. The lighthouse is at located at 420 Cape Schanck Rd, Cape Schanck in the Parks Victoria Cape Schank Lighthouse Reserve which is open for pedestrian access from 6am to 6pm daily. You can view the lighthouse from the outside any day but tours inside the lighthouse are run from time to time and are announced on their Facebook page where you will also find pricing and contact details. For facilities, details of walking tracks, car parking and a map, visit the Parks Victoria website.
Cape Schanck Lighthouse - Image by Vinterfest, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
4. The McCrae or Eastern Shore Lighthouse was built in 1883 and was in service for 100 years. Its job was to guide the way through the South Channel on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay and it is sometimes referred to as the South Channel Lighthouse. The word lighthouse tends to conjure up views of tall concrete structures but this is a rebel among lighthouses. This is a metal lighthouse with an open frame; it rises 33.5 metres and the light is accessed by a spiral staircase of 120 steps. After being decommissioned, it was transferred to Lighthouse Reserve, 676 Point Nepean Rd, McCrae, on the beachside of the Nepean Highway between Dromana and Rosebud, where although fenced, it can be viewed. There is an information board at the site.
South Channel Lighthouse, McCrae - Rose Sterograph between1920 NS 1954 - In the public doamin via The State Library of Victoria
5.TOUR / STAY OVER – The Cape Nelson Lighthouse just a ten-minute drive from Portland not only offers tours, but accommodation is available in the old cottages. This lighthouse was commission in 1884. It was automated in the 1990s and is still in operation today. Tours of the precinct and the lighthouse (including access to the upper walkway where you have a 360-degree view of the surrounding area) are conducted daily at 11am and 2pm. Tours cost (Aug. 2021) Adults $15, Children $10 and Families $40 and can be booked by ringing on 0438 012 352. Isabella's café on the site is open to coincide with tour times. For more details about tours, accommodation or the lighthouse, visit the very informative and comprehensive Cape Nelson Lighthouse website.
Cape Nelson Lighthouse, Portland, - Image by Joshua Hibbert joshnh, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
6. Whalers Bluff Lighthouse is in Lighthouse Ave, Portland on Whalers Bluff, also known as Whalers Point, just one and a half kilometres north of the centre of Portland. This lighthouse was built in 1854 at Battery Point and was moved stone by stone to its current position in 1890. Visitors cannot enter the lighthouse but can get a close view from the grounds outside which are open all year round. An information board on the door gives some history and there are panoramic views across the bay. This is a 12-metre high bluestone tower painted white with a red top.
Whalers Bluff Lighthouse in Portland - Image by Mountain Ash, CC BY-SA 3.0via Wikimedia Commons
7. STAY OVER - Lady Bay Lighthouse is part of the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in 83 Merri Street, Warrnambool. Built in 1854, this lighthouse is still in operation. Visitors can book a stay at the Lighthouse Lodge, originally the Warrnambool Harbour Master's house. The lodge overlooks the State Heritage Lady Bay Lighthouse precinct and visitors have a good view of the lighthouse lights, blinking their warning out across the bay. Visit the Flagstaff Hill website or ring 1800 556 111 to make a booking.
Warnambool Lighthouse - Image by geowombats, CC BY-SA 2.0via Wikimedia Commons
8. TOUR / STAY OVER - Cape Otway Lightstation is at the end of Lighthouse Road, Cape Otway (near Apollo Bay) and is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia. It is a sandstone tower built in 1848 which was decommissioned in 1994 when it was replaced by a solar-powered beacon. Visitors can join the Lighthouse Tower Climb guided tour which encompasses the 1850s keeper's quarters and workshop as well as a climb to the top of the tower. Tours must be pre-booked. For more details, bookings and costs visit the Lighthouse Tower Climb page of their website. Accommodation is available in three of the heritage precinct buildings originally built for the lightkeepers. For more information or to make bookings for the tour or accommodation, visit the Cape Otway Lightstation website, ring (03) 5237 9240 or email email@example.com
9. OPEN SOMETIMES - Port Fairy Lighthouse is on Griffiths Island, which is maintained as a sanctuary for plants, birds and animals. The lighthouse was built in 1864 and in 2006 a solar-powered, remotely operated light was fitted externally. Subject to weather it is open for visitors during weekends in January, and on some long weekends. The island, which is at the mouth of the Moyne River, is accessed from a pedestrian causeway from the carpark at Martins Point; the lighthouse is 1.2 kilometres from the junction. For more information including downloadable brochures on both Griffiths Island and The Lighthouse, go to the Griffiths Island page on the Moyne Shire website. For visitor details and a walking map, visit the Griffiths Island page on the I am Port Fairy website.
Griffiths Island Lighthouse - Image by Ed Dunens, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
10. TOUR - Point Lonsdale Lighthouse is at 13 Point Lonsdale Road. It was built in 1902 and is still manned. Lighthouse tours are usually available on Sundays, 9:30am until 1:00pm and bookings should be made due to restrictions on numbers. Group bookings can be arranged. There are 120 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Visitors can also view the lighthouse and historic foghorn shed from the outside where they will be treated to a magnificent view of The Heads. For details of tours, pricing, and enquiries, visit the Queenscliff Maritime Museum website.
11. Queenscliff Highlight – The Black Lighthouse is in the Fort Queenscliff grounds at 1 King Street, Queenscliff. It was built in 1862 and is the only black (unpainted) lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere. Fort Queenscliff was built around the light to guard ships carrying gold from attacks during the gold rush days. There is no public access to the lighthouse and access to the grounds is through the Fort Queenscliff Museum for which tours are available. For more details, visit the Fort Queenscliff website.
Queenscliff Highlight - The Black Lighthouse - Image by Maias, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
12. Queenscliff Lowlight – The White Lighthouse is the lower of the two and was also built in 1862 but unlike its highlight counterpart, it was painted white. Its purpose is to guide ships through the Rip and into Port Phillip Bay. This light is still in operation but is now automated. This lighthouse is not open to the public but can be accessed for external viewing from the carpark behind Fort Queenscliff, which is on King Street.
Queenscliff Lowlight - The White Lighthouse - Image by Michaelbeckham at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
13. TOUR - Split Point Lighthouse is at 13 Federal Street, Aireys Inlet. Also called The White Queen the 34-metre-high lighthouse is a Great Ocean Road beacon built in 1891. This lighthouse has been automated since 1919 and was converted to mains electricity in 1972. Guided tours are available every weekend and during school holidays from 9am to 5pm in Summer or 11am to 3pm in Winter. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour. The tower accords stunning 360-degree views. For more information or to make a booking, visit the Aireys Inlet Split Point Lighthouse Tours website.
14. Cape Liptrap Lighthouse is at 655 Cape Liptrap Road (via South Walkerville Road), Tarwin Lower. It is one of Australia's younger lighthouses, not having been built until 1951 when it replaced the 1913 steel tower. The lighthouse itself is only 10 meters high but atop the cliff, it sits at an elevation of 93 metres. It was converted to mains power in 1970 and still operates today. The lighthouse is not open to the public but can be viewed from the outside. The picturesque views from the lighthouse encompass the Bass Strait and Wilsons Promontory. The road is unmade but usually well maintained and the lighthouse is around 200 metres walk from the car park. To read more about the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park, what you can do while you're there and to download the visitor guide (with maps) visit the Parks Victoria website.
Cape Liptrap Lighthouse - Image by Wayne Butterworth, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
15. STAY OVER – South East Point Lighthouse - Wilsons Promontory Lightstation is in the Wilsons Promontory National Park on the southernmost tip of the Promontory, 20km from Tidal River which is also the southernmost tip of mainland Australia. The light station was built from local granite over a period of six years by convict labour and was completed in 1859. The lighthouse, which was converted to solar power in 1993, stands 117 metres above sea level and the light can be seen for 25kms across the Bass Strait towards Tasmania. Visitors can book stays at the cottages but these are unsupplied so you must take all your own food and access is by a 20km hike from Tidal River. For more information and to book a cottage visit the Wilsons Promontory page on the Parks Victoria Park Stays website.
Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse Image by Steve Bennett, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
16. Point Hicks Lightstation is in Croajingolong National Park. It is a concrete tower first commissioned in 1890 and these days is solar powered. This lighthouse is notorious not for its technical aspects or because it is the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia but because is believed to be haunted by the ghost of former Lightkeeper Christofferson. The area was impacted by the 2019/2020 bushfires with the result that at the time of writing, the area is inaccessible and tours and accommodation have been suspended until further notice. The light station is normally accessed by Point Hicks Road, via Cann River.
Point Hicks Lighthouse - Image by Stevage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
17. TOURS / STAY OVER - Gabo Island Lighthouse is on Gabo Island near Mallacoota. It is a 47-metre-high granite lighthouse constructed in 1853 and automated in 1993. The assistant lightkeepers cottage can be booked for overnight stays but availability is limited, so it would be wise to plan well ahead of time. For more information about the cottage and to make a booking, visit the Gabo Island Lighthouse Reserve page on the Parks Victoria Park Stays website. To arrange a tour contact the island's caretaker on (03) 5158 0255. Access to the island is by boat from Mallacoota. For more information about what to see and do on the island and links to charter boat operators providing day tours, visit the Gabo Island page on the Visit Mallacoota website.
Gabo Island Lighthouse - Image by Mark Gillow, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Thanks Gayle on your interesting article. I have visited all the Lighthouses you mentioned as way as most in Tasmania. I worked with the department of Shipping and Transport many years ago as a lighthouse mechanic and other roles. It all brought back memories for me. David J